Oct 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside Kamala Harris' new strategy for the VP debate

Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris waves during an event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Oct. 2. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Trump’s hospitalization has changed the game plan for Sen. Kamala Harris for Wednesday's debate.

Between the lines: Harris was preparing to tie Vice President Pence to Trump — then shred Trump on the pandemic, health care, the Supreme Court, civil rights and more. She had planned a handful of anti-Trump zingers. Now, her approach will be less personal, although she won't shy away from the pandemic — or arguing that Pence owns Trump's record.

Team Harris knows Pence is more measured in his delivery than Trump.

  • Pete Buttigieg, a fellow Hoosier and the former mayor of South Bend, is summoning his inner Pence in Harris' debate prep.

As long as Trump is ill, look for an added sensitivity from the Democratic nominees — not because they think Trump would do the same for them, but because of the message they want to send Americans.

  • Sources familiar with the campaign's approach say Biden's speech in Michigan on Friday — which didn't directly attack Trump — will be a guide for Harris.

The intrigue: Harris’ team looked at research on how women are judged more on "likability" and held to a higher standard to prove they're qualified.

  • Harris advisers say their research shows that in public speaking, women are judged overwhelmingly more on physical appearance than on what they say.

The other side: Pence has held at least two 90-minute mock sessions with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi standing in for Harris.

  • With their similar prosecutorial backgrounds (Harris is also a former state attorney general), Bondi has been trying to channel Harris' slashing debate style.
  • Bondi, a member of Trump’s impeachment legal defense and denizen of cable TV, is dishing out many of the attacks she's received for the last year.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short is running the debate-prep process, ensuring Pence gets advice from all corners, including old friends in Congress and from his time as governor of Indiana.

  • "Pence is a preparation guy," a campaign official told Alayna.
  • The campaign sent "mounds of materials" to Pence's team weeks ago.

The vice president's team and Bondi did not respond to a request for comment.

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